Today, TechCrunch posted the first of several confidential documents about the personal and professional lives of Twitter employees, notes from executive meetings, new business ideas and pitches, and financial information. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington (@arrington) admits that the documents he has were received from a hacker (not employed by TechCrunch).
When Arrington made his announcement last night on TechCrunch, the comments began pouring in on both TechCrunch and Twitter. Most people agreed that TechCrunch had no business publishing the documents – and that it was unethical:
Arrington’s defense was that if he didn’t do it, someone else would, and that information which is illegally or unethically obtained is news. I have to beg to differ on this point.
Making public confidential documents to expose fraud, lies, or illegal activity is news. Making public illegally obtained documents that expose nothing more than some tossed-aside business pitches and the financial projections of a privately held company is nothing more than a cheap attempt to get traffic and links. Likely, Arrington’s ploy will work, because people eat this stuff up. But, I have to wonder, what this will cost TechCrunch in the future? I know I won’t be linking back to TechCrunch anytime soon, and plenty of others agree.
Doing something wrong and profiting from it does not equal success or trust from your avid readers. Publishing the private notes of executive meetings and financial projections for a company that is privately funded is NOT NEWS. It’s nothing more than tabloid sensationalism, equivalent to the “exclusive” headlines read in supermarket checkout lines across America. Just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you are respected.
TechCrunch is on quite the roll this week, demonstrating quite publicly how to lose friends and negatively influence social media. First the “anonymous” contributor who slammed SEO and Google, and now this? Keep it up, TechCrunch, and you’ll soon be known as the National Enquirer of the tech news world.